After Martin's series was adapted for television as Game of Thrones, my husband started reading the series and telling me how much he was enjoying it. I decided I ought to at least read the first book and see what I made of it.
Kudos to all you fans who tried to introduce me earlier: I'm hooked. It's the characters that did it; how Martin keeps track of them all, much less how he can endue a soldier's or maidservant's few lines with a legitimately compelling, layered personality is more than I can fathom.
If you've heard that this series is dark, well, that's true. There are good people in Westeros and the other nations of this world, but there are also truly evil people, and many terrible things are done solely for someone's personal benefit. It's often an uncomfortable read, sometimes terribly sad. Occasionally, it provoked deep anger in me. Martin's writing is evocative and serviceable; in a few places it becomes uneven; in another few, it rises to brilliance.
I love Ned Stark and Jon Snow and Arya. And Tyrion, of course, but I totally do not trust him. He's a better man than many, especially compared to his blood relatives, but he's not exactly a good man. I look forward to seeing how these characters develop.
Also, I love the direwolves! Please, please, can I have one?
So now I have to read the whole series. Also, I need to stop reading these books at night; I keep waking up and thinking I'm at Winterfell. It's been a long time since that happened with a fiction book.